June 8-9, 1981: Remarks during a Visit from President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico

On June 8-9, 1981, President Ronald Reagan hosted Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo at the White House. On June 8, Reagan and Lopez Portillo delivered the following remarks at the South Portico of the White House. Lopez Portillo spoke in Spanish and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

President Reagan. I warmly welcome President Lopez Portillo on behalf of the people of the United States. But I also want to convey my personal greetings because of my personal respect and affection. The relationship we’ve built as individuals is indicative of a new dimension that we are bringing to the friendship between our two countries.

Our planned meeting of 2 months ago, which I was looking forward to with great anticipation, was abruptly canceled. And I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the consideration you’ve shown in visiting us here in Washington. You’ve done us a great honor in your visit to the White House.

You’ll recall, Mr. President, the last time we met was in the Museum of Art, part of Mexico’s rich cultural past — that was in Ciudad Juarez. We were surrounded there by magnificent pieces of art, part of Mexico’s rich cultural past. It was appropriate that we should meet in such a place, for art transcends time and material consideration.

The same is true of the friendship between the peoples of Mexico and the United States. In a world filled with neighbors who resort to violence, neighbors who’ve lost sight of the shared values and mutual interests, the good will between Mexico and the United States is a blossom whose beauty we meet here to cherish and protect.

God made Mexico and the United States neighbors, but it is our duty and the duty of generations yet to come to make sure that we remain friends. I welcome you today with the pledge that this administration will sincerely and diligently strive to maintain a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation between our two nations and that decisions which affect both sides of our border will be made only after the closest consultation between our governments. Our very proximity is an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how two nations, talking together as equals, as partners, as friends, can solve their problems and deepen their mutual respect.

Mr. President, you are a scholar, a man of art, and a political leader of a proud and independent nation. There are many items of importance on our agenda. I look forward to a far-reaching exchange of views that will cement the ties between us. The personal friendship that we’re developing must be equaled by the closeness between our two peoples.

President Lopez Portillo. Mr. President, under the sign of friendship which began in Ciudad Juarez, it is now for me a great pleasure to be here in the Capital City of your great country.

We are sorry that we did not meet in Tijuana as we had planned. But I am very happy that we are meeting now here at the White House, and it also pleases me enormously to see that you have totally recovered from the attempt that was brought on by absurd violence. I am very happy to see that you have enormous capacity of recovery. And in your good health and in your strength, I can see the good health and the strength of your nation.

There are few countries in the world that have so many items to deal with among themselves as the United States and Mexico. We’re not only neighbors, we are also the representatives of two worlds. Literally and geographically speaking, we represent the North and the South along 3,000 kilometers of border. Therefore, there are structural matters between us that have been shaped by our history and our geography.

We also represent the relationship between the developing world and the world that has already been developed. And we’re also immersed in a regional context that shapes our relationship. I come here now, sir, as a friend without any prejudice, to talk over these matters with you and to prove with my coming that there can be friendship among friends and that this friendship can have as its main pillar and basis the rule of reason.

In an absurd world, the reasonable thing to do can be the possible thing to do. And what is reasonable is based on respect and on the law. There are many problems that we have to deal with. We will be very happy to find our similarities. And when we do not have coinciding opinions — and it is very possible that in this world of plurality there may be times when we do not have coinciding opinions — then we will talk things over without arrogance.

Arrogance is a dangerous deviation of they who are in a weaker position. The other very dangerous aspect is submission. We will select the road of respect and the rule of reason without any submission and without any arrogance.

I believe that few times in our history has there been an opportunity for good understanding as there is today to understand each other well and to deepen and make headway in our relationship.

I feel, Mr. President, that you have great good will and a friendly feeling. I feel that you are a decent individual and an honest one. I shall make a great effort to respond to the kindnesses that you have with me.

We have established a friendship which no doubt will be both symbolic and solid. I am absolutely certain that we will [be] able to achieve what our two peoples and nations want of us. We want to be understood, and in turn, we want to understand. We want to respect, and we want to be respected. We want a solid relationship that will seek out the mutual interests of two countries that are neighbors and friends.

I am very certain, Mr. President, that if we go beyond rhetoric and prejudice, we shall be able to achieve our goals. And this will be for the good of both countries.

I thank you very much.

On June 9, Reagan and Portillo delivered the following toasts in the East Room at the White House.

President Reagan. President Lopez Portillo, some years ago when I was Governor of California, I was inspecting areas in our State which had been enormously damaged by one of those natural catastrophes that we sometimes see on the Pacific coast — great mudslides that can sweep away a man’s home in a matter of moments.

One of these belonged to an old gentleman from your country, who was standing in the middle of what, before the slide, had been his living room. We were both kneedeep in mud. It must have been heartbreaking for him, because his home had obviously been newly furnished. Now it was a scene of ruin. With quiet dignity and the utmost sincerity, he said, “Governor Reagan, mi casa es su casa” — my house is your house. I was deeply moved, and I realized that I was witness to what was purely and traditionally Hispanic — personal pride and courage in the face of adversity.

Today, Mr. President, the entire nation is happy to have you with us here in the White House. And since this house belongs to all of them, may I say on behalf of my fellow citizens, “Mi casa es su casa.”

From the moment of our meeting on the Friendship Bridge at Ciudad Juarez last January, I was certain that we would make our relationship more than symbolic, not only because our peoples expect certain cordiality between their leaders but because the leader of the Mexican people exemplifies so well the proud culture and heritage of his people. When you took that highly symbolic step across the boundary to grasp my hand, I knew that our future relationship would be that of personal friends.

Your concern and good wishes during my period of hospitalization were deeply appreciated. The Vice President told me of your concern for my health and of your most generous offer to travel to Washington for this meeting even though protocol called for me to visit you.

At our first meeting, you gave me a splendid example of your own artistry, drawings of horses etched on glass, drawn by you, that are now proudly displayed behind my desk in the Oval Office. And I value greatly the volumes on beautiful art of your country. But it would be difficult to match the gift that arrived at our ranch shortly before my Inauguration — El Alamain, a magnificent horse, your personal mount. Now, that was more than friendship; you took me into your family.

But I remember, too, that you presented me with a bound volume of a book that you wrote on Quetzalcoatl — almost had trouble there. [Laughter] It has much to say about your people. It also says much about the man who leads them today. I found especially relevant to your land the words of Quetzalcoatl to his newborn son: “You are made with the fibers of joy and sorrow, of laughter and tears. You are at the edge of all the possibilities and soon you will have the strength to choose. You will be the course and the measure of the richness and misery. You will be the eagle and the serpent. With your pain, you will maintain the conscience of the universe, with your laughter, the dignity of Man.”

Later in the book, Quetzalcoatl, perplexed by the problems of governing, said something we can both relate to: “Despite its regularity, this world is a confused sphere of arbitrary things.” The art of politics is sometimes frustrating, but there are other times of confidence and optimism, and your visit has been such a time.

I listened very carefully to you in our meetings, Mr. President, noting the content and the spirit with which you spoke. Your presence inspires confidence that we can calm any of the tensions that inevitably arise between two such close neighbors.

During your election campaign in 1976, you traveled through all 31 of Mexico’s states, spreading new hope. The message you brought to the Mexican people is something that can serve as a cornerstone for our relationship as well. If problems arise between us, we must always remember we are the solution. There is nothing that with mutual respect and honest communication we cannot work out together.

I look forward to our next meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in October. In saluting you today, I thank you for your generosity, but more, I thank you for the continued good will between our two peoples that your visit represents.

And so, I ask all of you to join me in a toast to Jose Lopez Portillo, the President of Mexico.

President Lopez Portillo. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, my friends:

I must confess that I am moved. I must confess that I have spoken in this same place three times before, and I have never done so as moved as I feel today.

It is true that I had always been sincere, but also cautious. I had always spoken frankly, but I have always measured the weight of each one of my words, because the relationship, for some reason or another, had always been a tense one. A relationship between neighbors that are so different are always difficult. It is difficult for the one side and for the other. But I confess for the first time now I have felt totally relaxed.

For the first time a President of the United States has used with me that very generous formula of “my home is your home.” And for we who understand the greatness and dignity that there is behind that expression, what I have heard from the President today has deeply moved me — as I can understand very well that he felt deeply moved also when he heard that old man that had no roof over his head and who was offering him his home, because a home is the environment of respect for the intimacy of the human being. And when one gives one’s intimacy in friendship, it is that that he is giving.

We understand this to be so, Mr. President, and we thank you for this. But I must also say that it has not only been the external behavior but also the substantive part of our relationship that has always been generous, kind, and affectionate.

If all the powerful people in the world were to truly understand what respect means to the weak people, the world would totally change. It is not only to give, not only to help; the most important thing of all is to respect. He who gives without respect is usually offensive. Very frequently I am reminded, and I remind others, that the first civic expression that we learn as children is the one that was said by one our great men and Presidents [Benito Juarez], the counterpart, so to speak, of Abraham Lincoln. He said, “Respect for the rights of others is peace.” The first word that we Mexicans learn in our civic behavior is the word “respect.” And this is the way, ladies and gentlemen, which we have been treated. We have been treated with respect and with friendship, and these are basic qualities to us.

On that basis, everything can be built. One can coincide, one can dissent; human beings are made in many and various different ways and shapes. And in our plurality, we should learn to coexist and to tolerate one another. Tolerance in itself is respect. And when a human relationship is built on respect, it is indestructible. We have spoken about many things. Fortunately, we have agreed on most of them. We have dissented on some. But with the greatest respect, we have agreed to talk about the matters on which we dissent in order to find appropriate solutions.

Intolerance has not come to cancel out opportunity, and that is very important for a good relationship between countries such as ours. It is important, because it is a representative sample of what is happening in the world — the relationship between the countries that have been able to develop and the developing nations. And in a geographic analogy, we could say that this is an expression of the North-South relationship.

We are the most significant relationship between the North and the South. That is why, Mr. President, I have felt so happy and so grateful that you have accepted our invitation to come to Cancun, because we do not only have concepts in mind, but we have direct experiences and reciprocal experiences. I am very certain that the special characteristics of our relationship, North-South relationship, that is, United States-Mexico, can be taken to generalization and that it will be useful, that it can be useful. And this is what we fervently wish — it can be useful for the rest of mankind.

We want appropriate communication so that political will can be expressed. And political will has been expressed here and now today in the United States as regards Mexico and with reference to Mexico as regards the United States within an environment of good will, peace, respect, and consideration for each other.

I believe, Mr. President, that in Cancun we can be a stimulating example to help and participate in the detente of this world which is so complex and at times so absurd, because if the disasters brought on by nature that create all these things for human beings are absurd in themselves — these disasters that leave old men without a roof over their heads but still with their dignity — nature, in that case, nature that has its own strength and will, cannot be controlled by us. But there is something that leaves man without a roof over his head and which is not nature — and I’m talking about passions, ambition, intolerance, violence — vices all of human will. And it is up to the will of the human being to correct these mistakes. Perhaps we can do nothing against nature, but we can do a great deal with our will if we’re talking about good will, and I do believe that good will is possible. And I believe that in Cancun, we shall have the opportunity to say that is possible and to confirm that we’re speaking the truth.

I would hope, Mr. President, that we will know how to lay bridges that will make it possible for all men and women in the world to say to each other, “My friends, this is your home.”

Thank you.

I would like to propose a toast to the health of President Reagan and his beautiful wife, to the friendship of Mexico and the United States. To your health.

On June 9, Reagan gave the following remarks at the North Portico of the White House on the departure of Lopez Portillo.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you very much for being here.

I just want to express my appreciation for President Lopez Portillo’s changing his schedule and coming to Washington to accommodate us. The talks that we’ve had were frank, they were valuable, and they lead to a closer relationship between our two countries. In addition to that, I’m very proud, personally, to say that we have a warm and a close personal relationship between the two of us.

Our frank discussion revealed basic agreement on the need to strengthen the economies of the less developed nations, to bring about social and economic development of their peoples. We agreed that this was the best way to assure the region’s future stability, and we’ll be exchanging ideas on how best to bring about such development.

We agreed that the special nature of our relations required a special framework for doing business. We decided to form a bilateral Foreign Secretaries commission to assure integrated handling of matters of common concern. It will be cochaired by Secretary Haig and Secretary Castaneda. They will submit a report by December 31st, 1981.

Because trade problems are essentially and especially urgent, we also decided to set up immediately a Cabinet-level trade committee to recommend how to go about dealing with outstanding bilateral trade questions. The committee will be cochaired by the Mexican and United States Secretaries of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative. The committee will begin work as soon as possible. We also agreed to address outstanding fisheries problems on a similar urgent basis.

An important agreement providing for supply of substantial quantities of United States grain to Mexico during 1982 was signed by Secretary Block for the United States and Secretary de la Vega for Mexico. Attorney General Smith briefed the Mexican party in detail on the various options we’re now considering to deal with the undocumented migrant problem. And I assured the President that the United States would take Mexico’s interest in this problem fully into consideration, as well as the interests and rights of the individual migrants themselves.

I had the great pleasure of informing the President that the legislature has acted, the Congress has acted, and we are going forward with construction of the Otay Mesa additional border crossing to relieve the logjam that we have at the San Ysidro crossing there. It is badly needed on the California Baja border. And we agreed that it would be an important boost to tourism in both directions.

President Lopez Portillo formally invited me to participate in a meeting of heads of government, an international meeting to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in October, and I happily accepted that invitation. I look forward to the informal discussion of North-South questions which will occur at that meeting, as well as additional meetings that we have spoken of.

And now comes the — I shall present President Lopez Portillo for his farewell, but it is a sad moment now. We have had a fine, warm, friendly, and productive meeting.

The text of the three speeches comes from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum part of the United States National Archives and Records Administration. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

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